A group of electronics companies plan to help a quadriplegic former Indy Car racer lap the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. The SAM Project, for Semi-Autonomous Motorcar, will see Sam Schmidt lap the race track this Sunday, May 18.
The technologies used on the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette were developed by tech companies Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Falci Adaptive Motorsports, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The car uses four infrared cameras that looks at sensors mounted on Schmidt's hat, allowing the computer to determine where he is pointing his head. Schmidt will tilt his head back to brake, and from side to side to steer the car. To brake, Schmidt will bite down on a sensor held in his mouth; the firmness of his bite determines how hard the brakes are applied.
For an added level of safety, another system in the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette constantly evaluates the car's position on the race track. If the car comes within five feet of the edges of the track, a warning will sound and the car will gradually steer itself back onto the correct driving line. Another computer will double-check the inputs given to the car so any erroneous data -- for instance, attempting a 90-degree turn at full speed on the track -- can be ignored.
Schmidt, now 49, was paralyzed in a crash during testing at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January 2000. He now runs Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which manages IndyCar and Indy Lights racing drivers, as well as the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.